Resolutions for all Christians: Philippians 3:7-14
Paul opened chapter 3 of Philippians with a detailed list of the many accomplishments that had been his in life. Read Philippians 3:4-6. Nothing had given him the peace he sought. Then Paul met Jesus on his way to Damascus, and when he made that personal commitment to Jesus everything changed.
In Philippians 3 Paul clearly stated that all the things he once thought were so important were, in fact, hindrances to finding the real peace and joy of life that he longed for. Paul used accounting language to describe them as belonging in the loss column compared to the real life he found in Jesus. Read Philippians 3:7-8. Gains were the things Paul once thought were important as listed in the opening verses of the chapter. They were considered a loss, not because they were necessarily bad, but because they kept him from finding the truly important things. In the context of Philippians, Paul was talking about salvation and was stressing that salvation does not come from works but by grace. As Paul went on, he applied that same principle of not allowing that which was less than the best to limit a growing walk with Jesus. The challenge we have is to determine what is truly important in our lives and in our family and make sure we do not allow the better to be squeezed out by the good or the best to be lost to the better. We need to be reminded often that the most important thing we can do for ourselves and our family is to ensure that we are growing spiritually. Three times in Philippians 3 Paul wrote about what really counts by evaluating everything “for the sake of Christ.”
Paul reminded us that the spiritual dimension of our lives really is the “surpassing greatness.” Knowing Jesus as Lord makes everything else insignificant.
Paul urged his readers to seriously “consider” what really mattered. Paul used the verb “consider” three times here, each with a slightly different meaning as he changed tenses. The first time he used the perfect tense which carries the idea of a complete evaluation. Then he used the present tense that implies a continuing evaluation that leads to the conclusion that what was previously examined thoroughly was properly evaluated and continues to prove to be the same. When “consider” is used with the term “rubbish” it reflected on the intensity of the conviction. One of the challenges we continually face is to seriously consider the spiritual goals and how serious we are about ensuring we keep them.
Paul then set forth his goals which should be our goals. First Paul said in verse 10 “I want to know Christ.” Paul was not talking about salvation. That was settled years earlier on the road to Damascus. Paul used a verb here meaning “to know by experience” and was saying that his goal was to know Jesus in a deeper, more intimate way. It is one thing to know the stories about Jesus and a totally different thing to know Him in a personal way. We get to know Him personally as we spend time in prayer just talking to Him and allowing Him, through the Holy Spirit, to talk to us.
Having set the goal of wanting to know Jesus better, Paul then set three specific goals that flow from knowing Jesus in a more personal way. First, he wanted to know “the power of his resurrection.” Paul saw the power displayed in resurrection as illustrating the power that is essential to our Christian lives. Paul desired that power which would enable him to continue the growth toward being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. We should regularly ask God what changes He would like us to make and then seek His power to accomplish that. We cannot do it alone.
The second goal for Paul, and one that should be ours also, was to know by experience “the fellowship of sharing in his suffering.” This isnot a desire to simply suffer for the sake of suffering but the realization that if we are truly seeking to live as God would have us live there may very well be persecution of some kind. Friends may not want us around and our neighbors may not understand us. The goal for Paul was to seek each day to live as God would have him, regardless of how others respond to that. As our cultural standards change and move further and further away from the unchanging Word of God, we will be called upon more and more to change with it. When we take a stand for God’s way we will be laughed at more and more. Paul was saying he’d rather suffer for Jesus than deny Him and His Word.
Finally, Paul said one of his goals was to “become like Jesus in death.” Paul wanted to face each moment as Jesus faced the impending Cross, with a simple commitment that says, “Not my will but Yours be done.” We have no idea what lies ahead but we must face it with the realization of God’s ultimate control. We need to live each day with the realization that if we accept His will, all things will work out for our good and His glory, even if it is not what we might have desired.
Paul then clarified the issue by telling us that he had not yet arrived but was seriously pursuing the blessings of the Christian life. Read Philippians 3:12. Knowing where Paul was spiritually when he wrote that, we are reminded that we have not arrived either. We must continue to grow in our walk with God.
At the heart of Paul’s goal to grow was the realization that spiritual progress is possible and that should be our goal. While the ultimate goal of the Christian life will be ours only when we are with Him in glory, we must never become complacent Christians who assume we don’t have to grow spiritually.
Knowing how important that goal was to Paul, and should be to us, he declared he was “pressing on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me.” “Press” was an athletic term that pictured the effort to push forward or pursue the goal at any cost. For the athlete, it implied strenuous effort, focused direction and commitment. There is no place for a complacent church or believer. We are either pressing on toward the goal or we have dropped out of the race.
The idea that Jesus took hold of Paul for a purpose is critical. Paul saw his conversion as more than simply an escape from hell. He believed all of us have been saved for a purpose and a major part of that purpose is to enjoy a closer fellowship with Jesus. In addition, every one of us was grasped by Christ for some additional purpose. Jesus has a plan for everyone. Paul believed that he was not saved to simply wait for the return of Jesus or his death but to enjoy fellowship with Jesus each day and to live for Him each day.
Read 3:13 which is a repeat for emphasis. The moment we think we have gone as far as we can go, or as far as we need to go, we give Satan a victory. Satan desperately wants us to fall short of all God redeemed us to become.
Read 3:14. Past achievements are not the focus of one in a race. One does not win a race by looking back to see how much ground has been covered or looking around to see how he compares to others. One’s focus is always straight ahead at the goal. Pressing forward is building on the past but not living in the past. Forgetting what is behind is forgetting both that which we can be pleased with as well as the mistakes we have made. Our previous successes and failures can hinder us from moving forward. Paul continued with a picture of an athlete going flat out for the goal. It is a challenge to us to ask how seriously we pursue growth. Paul’s commitment was what every athlete has, that of continuing full steam to the finish line, to the victory.
For Paul, the goal was to press on “To win the prize for which God has called me heavenward.” He looked forward to the eternal blessings that await us when we are finally in His presence. Heavenward is a reminder that there is more to the Christian life than the here and now. Paul would challenge all of us to keep a heavenly perspective in all we do. Read Hebrews 12:1-2. Paul’s goal for each day of his life and should also be our goal for each day.